News Release

16 New Latter-day Saint Mission Presidents Take the Reins in Europe

On July 1st, sixteen couples and, in some cases, their children left their homes, businesses, friends and family, and in many cases their country to take up an unpaid position. They will be supervising and teaching young men and women as well as senior couples in whichever European country they've been assigned. They didn’t even sign up for it; then why are they doing it?

These sixteen men have received church callings to be mission presidents for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Europe Area. Some of these soon-to-be mission presidents have little previous experience with the language or culture of their new assignment. Others may have served in the country as a young missionary, but for most of them, assuming the role to guide a group of missionaries may seem overwhelming.

Elder Peter Berkhahn and Sister Ilona Berkhahn, native Germans currently serving as senior missionaries, left their home twenty years ago to serve as mission president and companion in Calgary, Canada. While they admit it was difficult for them to be in a strange land, they say if they were asked once again to accept the calling, they would respond with a resounding “absolutely!” For them, and for many mission presidents and their families, what makes it all worth it is the relationships they build with the young men and women serving as missionaries. It is a privilege, say Elder and Sister Berkhahn, to support these missionaries as they make sacrifices to serve the people they teach – and to see those sacrifices enriching the lives of all involved.

However, this newer group of mission presidents has an advantage that Elder and Sister Berkhahn did not: technology. Christian Hans and Sibylle Evelyn Ketzinger Fingerle are a part of the upcoming influx of new presidents and their wives and will serve in Berlin, Germany. For them, the months between accepting the calling and physically moving to their mission area are filled with prep work – reading assignments in Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, Mission President’s Handbook, and scripture; online videos and even weekly video conferences with a class of other preparing couples. They have their own online portal with seven lessons they must complete before hopping on the plane.

“My wife, she always wanted to serve a mission; now she’s further along in the assignments than I am!” Elder Fingerle laughs. It goes to show that these women who serve by their husbands’ sides are not called to be cooks and housewives. Church authorities say a mission president’s wife is meant to teach and guide alongside her husband in a joint effort to help their missionaries bring others to Christ.

While these 16 couples will do their best to train, protect, and lead these missionaries, they recognize they are only a means to a purpose. “This is the Lord’s work. He is overseeing everything that happens here,” says former mission president of Hungary Lowell V. Smith. Mission Presidents with this strong spiritual conviction are able to effectively help their missionaries and the people they serve, no matter the obstacles or difficulties they may face.

Each of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 400-plus mission presidents all over the world supervises and trains hundreds of the more than 80,000 missionaries assigned to a specific geographic area. Most mission presidents and their wives serve for three consecutive years.

The following are the new mission presidents for the Europe Area as of July 1st, 2015:

Daniel Roger O’Bryant – Denkmark Copenhagen, Christian Hans Fingerle – Germany Berlin, Joni Luiz Koch Portugal Porto, George Ronald Stuart Donaldson – Scotland/Ireland, József Szabadkai – Hungary Budapest, Todd DarVel Andersen – Spain Malaga, Bill Orr Heder – Greece Athens, Victor Emanuel Engelhardt Tavares – Portugal Lisbon, Mark Woodrow Stevens – England London, Ronald Kjar Gubler – England London South, Robert Lee Bunnell – Belgium/Netherlands, Tracy Arnold Hill – Norway Oslo, Mark Anthony John Leppard – England Birmingham, Scott Douglas Brown – France Lyon, Merril Taylor Dayton – Spain Barcelona, Kevin Blair Pack – Spain Madrid.

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